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This review is taken from PN Review 133, Volume 26 Number 5, May - June 2000.

ROOTED IN THE BODY SHARON OLDS, Blood, Tin, Straw (Alfred A, Knopf) $24 hardcover, $15 paperback
MARK STRAND, Blizzard of One (Alfred A. Knopf) $21

There are tender and powerful poems in Sharon Olds' new collection, Blood, Tin, Straw . Since the initial shock of the raw intensity of her confessional voice in The Dead and the Living and The Gold Cell, Olds' subsequent books have sometimes seemed to be rehearsing the same material. The Wellspring, her 1996 collection, was more polished than the preceding volumes, but did not really amount to a significant move onwards for her work. But Blood, Tin, Straw marks a shift both in the emotional weight and the subject matter of her poems.

The book takes its title from the bodies of Dorothy's three companions in L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz - the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. These three figures also supply the names of the first three of the book's five sections - 'Blood', 'Tin', 'Straw', 'Fire' and 'Light', headings that mark affinities within grouped poems' imagery. One can read these headings as a progressive disembodying and dematerialization, from the fluid fundamental to life to the denseness of tin to the greater permeability of straw to the consuming energy of fire and the insubstantial purity of light.

It seems that since her father's death (of which she wrote in The Wellspring) she has returned to herself from her preoccupation with her family, especially with her father, who has been such a strong presence in her poems to date. Which is not to say that he and her mother, 'God's ...


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